Leadership Program Puts Pharmacists at the Forefront of Improving Healthcare – UofSC News & Events

As the role of pharmacists continues to expand – from rural pharmacists who are often a community’s sole advocate for health care, to industrial pharmacists working with policy makers to improve and expand health care delivery – the profession needs leaders.

Helping to develop and inspire these pharmacy leaders is the goal of the Walker Leadership Scholars Program at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, says program founder Donna Walker (1979 pharmacy, 1984 MBA). Each year, the competitive program selects two high-ability students from the first-year pharmacy class to be scholarship recipients for three consecutive years.

“The program requires considerable commitment,” says Walker. “It’s not just, ‘What do I get?’ it’s ‘What am I contributing?’ ”

Fellows help recruit high school students to the College of Pharmacy and take on leadership roles while they are still students.

Walker, whose father owned Cedar Terrace Pharmacy in Colombia, has been on the policy-making and innovation side of pharmacy for most of his career. Her own leadership skills were developed early in her college career as she held several student leadership positions with the American Pharmacists Association, while also serving as a senator and student government secretary for the UofSC.

I really wanted to grow as a leader, but to be honest, I really had no idea how much the program was going to change my life.

Meg Freiter, 2019 Pharm.D., Walker Leadership Fellow

Walker’s husband, Mark Pulido – also a second-generation pharmacist – served as CEO of major pharmaceutical companies. Together they own the Pulido-Walker Winery and Vineyards in Napa Valley and operate the Pulido Walker Foundation. Their mantra is “pursue the possible” and it permeates every aspect of their lives, including their philanthropy.

“This pursuit means you’re trying to perfect every element along the way,” says Walker.

Both the cellar and the school curriculum use the same emblem – an ancient apothecary’s weight engraved with the alchemical symbols of the seasons.

“It meant to us the weighing and measuring of decisions every day of every season to create excellence in what you do.”

In addition to helping students hone their leadership skills, the program aims to expose them to the many career opportunities that come with a pharmacy degree.

One such student is Meg Freiter, who graduated in 2019 and works as a senior pharmacy practice executive for the American Pharmacists Association, the national professional society where Walker’s own career began.

A native of Boston, Freiter earned both a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy (2017) and a Pharm. D. at the UofSC. She was a Capstone Scholar as well as a Walker Leadership Scholar. She came to Carolina with the goal of becoming an independent pharmacist, but saw how she could help thousands of independent pharmacists across the country through her work with the association.

“I was really interested in creating a pharmacy that could offer the best that pharmacists can do,” she says. These things include giving flu shots and now COVID shots, helping patients manage hypertension or quitting smoking. “Then I started to realize how many obstacles there were to offering these things.

“So I thought wouldn’t it be great to help solve these different hurdles so that I can eventually create my own amazing pharmacy?” Freiter said. “Along the way, I realized that by working with APhA, I could help create many truly amazing pharmacies and not just my own.”

This desire to advance the profession is one of the qualities that made Freiter a prime candidate for the Walker Leadership Scholar program.

“I really wanted to grow as a leader,” she says. “But to be honest, I really had no idea how much the program was going to change my life.”

In addition to casting leaders, the program seeks to create a network of professionals inside and outside the industry who can serve as mentors. Walker personally mentors all students in the program even after graduation.

“After the first class graduated from the program, two academics came to me and said, ‘This can’t be a three-year program. It should be a lifetime program. And they made it happen,” says Walker. “Their enthusiasm and commitment have motivated me to consider how the program can grow to continue to support the leadership development of scholars and make a substantial contribution to our profession.”

Learn more

To learn more about how you can support the College of Pharmacy, contact Terry Dixon, Senior Director of Development, at 803-777-5426 or [email protected]

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Topics: Students, Alumni, Faculty, Academics, Experiential Learning, Scholarships, Health Sciences, Leadership, Faculty of Pharmacy

Kevin E. Boling